Injury to Souza puts D-backs in tough spot 3 days away from opener

Mar 25, 2019, 11:02 PM | Updated: 11:18 pm
Arizona Diamondbacks' Steven Souza Jr. lies on the field and is assisted by manager Torey Lovullo, ...

Arizona Diamondbacks' Steven Souza Jr. lies on the field and is assisted by manager Torey Lovullo, left, after getting injured while scoring against the Chicago White Sox in the fourth inning of a spring training baseball game Monday, March 25, 2019, in Phoenix, Ariz. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

PHOENIX — Sometimes sports can be really unfair.

Steven Souza Jr. struggled through an injury-riddled 2018 campaign, missing 90 games in his first season with the Diamondbacks. His stats dipped to career lows across the board, but anyone who has spoken to him this spring will tell you he clearly took it personally. Finally healthy, he was intent on showing everyone that last year was an outlier.

Health is suddenly a concern again, though. Because of something that happened with less than two games left in spring training.

Souza had to be helped off the field in the fourth inning of Monday’s 6-3 loss to the White Sox at Chase Field. He came around to score Arizona’s second run on a Ketel Marte double, but crumbled at home plate in obvious pain, clutching his knee and yelling.

He eventually made it off the field with assistance from the trainers, but couldn’t put any weight on his left leg at all. The whole scene was tough to watch.

“It’s just a terrible scenario for somebody that fought as hard as he did last year to get back to where he was playing this year,” manager Torey Lovullo explained. “And he had a mindset that he was going to go out and be very, very good for us. That’s what’s heartbreaking to me. I know a lot of the personal conversations I’ve had with him and it’s just too bad.”

The D-backs’ manager discussed the game as well, but his thoughts were clearly with Souza. Luke Weaver echoed those sentiments.

“He’s in my prayers,” the 25-year old pitcher said. “He’s in all of our prayers and we’re just really hoping it’s not as serious as it looked.”

When the D-backs traded for Souza last February, there was some hope that he might help offset the loss of J.D. Martinez. Not that he would replace one of the best hitters in baseball, who was on his way to Boston at that point. But just that he could provide some power. After all, Souza had just launched 30 home runs in 2017 with Tampa.

He only managed five in his limited time last season, though. And Jake Lamb did the same. That means two players that hit a combined 60 longballs the year before gave Arizona a total of just 10 in 2018. With that in mind, it made sense for optimistic fans to point to that duo as an obvious source for improved power in 2019.

For what it’s worth, Lamb did hit his first homer of the spring Monday night, driving the first pitch he saw from Nate Jones over the left-center wall in the sixth to give Arizona a 3-1 lead.

Any improvements on Souza’s side, however, may have to wait. The 29-year old outfielder is hitting just .213 (10 for 47) with a pair of home runs this spring, but Cactus League numbers only mean so much and that’s all secondary now anyway. The team is officially calling it a left knee injury that will be re-evaluated on Tuesday, but he certainly didn’t look like a guy who would be ready for the opener in LA on Thursday.

“After it happened, the dugout was silent for a couple of innings,” Lovullo pointed out. “It just has a huge impact on the guys. And it’s not easy. It’s not easy for anybody to go through.”

For now, the Diamondbacks’ outfield essentially consists of David Peralta, Jarrod Dyson, Adam Jones and recently converted infielder Ketel Marte if Souza has to miss time. And in terms of power, only Peralta (30) and Eduardo Escobar (23) eclipsed the 20-home run barrier last year.

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